Thursday, 18 December 2014

Damien Trench’s Parkin and This Year’s Kitchen Music

It's about time that I paid due homage to the man widely recognised as this country's finest food writer and cook - Damien Trench. I believe that he'll be on the radio this Christmas and there's a rumour that he may grace our television screens at some point next year. I can't tell you how difficult it is to contain my excitement at the thought of it.

As a tribute to the great man I decided to make his recipe for parkin. I've hardly baked anything this year due to a lack of time and the fact that pretty much everybody I know is constantly on a diet, but surely I'm allowed at least one treat at this time of the year. I don't want to infringe Mr Trench's copyright by presenting his recipe in full but, suffice it to say, if you take this fine Tate and Lyle recipe, adjust the ratio of oatmeal and flour to favour the flour, adjust the milk up and the syrup down, use fresh rather than dried ginger and bake it for less time, then you’re pretty near it. I'm sure that the detailed recipe will appear in the next volume of Mr Trench's Diaries.
But enough of this cake-based enjoyment. I'm afraid that we’re now faced with the grim inevitability of my annual self-indulgence in the music that I've loved in the kitchen for the last 12 months.  Sorry about that.

Once upon a time knowing what music to play when people came round for dinner was so much easier. These days there's just far too much choice. In the late 1970s if you played anything other than Fleetwood Mac then the police kept watch on your house. In the latter part of 1984 it briefly became illegal to have a gathering of more than 3 people without playing Sade's ‘Diamond Life’. So do I have a suggestion for music for a modern gathering? You might as well ask if Jamie Oliver likes to drizzle – of course I do. I'd suggest Woman’s Hour (the band not the radio programme) for any informal gathering. The music is assured, stylish and relaxed. Their excellent first album ‘Conversations’ was released this year.

If that leaves you with a need for more stylish and assured music, then try PHOX, who released their d├ębut album this year. There was also a fine album 'Days Of Abandon' by the excellently named The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. I can't resist including this little clip because it's exactly like most evenings round at my house.

There was some very fine, old-style song writing and singing from the Australian Stu Larsen on the album 'Vagabond'. (If you have some spare time for more fine song writing then please give the gentle album ‘Home’ from the tea-drinking Icelander Hafdis Huld a try.)

This year also saw the release of the ‘Lights Out’ album from Bishop Allen, a band that’s been a favourite of mine for a number of years now. And if that’s all too English language for you, then there’s always Tourista from Peru. But in line with a short-lived tradition, here's my  favourite French song of the year to end with - ‘Transhumance’ from the album ‘Hirundo’ by Dominique Dalcan.

I'm off for a relaxing cup of tea and a revivingly delicious piece of parkin. Oh my actual goodness as Mr Trench has been known to say.